Introduction to fiction writing

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Susan Segal

Office Hours: Wednesday 1-2 p.m., Thursday 12-2 p.m., or by appointment
Syllabus Fall 2009
Required texts:

1. Rust Hills, Writing In General and the Short Story in Particular

Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1987

2. Anne Charters, ed. The Story and Its Writer 7th edition

New York: Bedford/St. Martins, 2007

3. A very good dictionary

Course Description: This course is designed to introduce the beginning fiction writer to the craft of fiction writing, with an emphasis on the literary short story. We will be studying a wide range of published stories from the Charters book as well as examining the students' own work. Everyone is expected to read, write comments on, and discuss in depth each story that passes through the workshop.

Requirements: You will be required to write two complete short stories, approximately 25-30 pages of fiction, and submit them to the workshop. In addition, you will read and annotate copies of the stories that are to be workshopped and write a one-page critique in preparation for class discussion. These will be collected by the instructor and are an important part of your grade. You will be expected to participate fully in class discussions of workshopped stories and assigned readings—this, too, is a big percentage of your grade. You will be required to read assigned stories and chapters in the Hills text. You will also be responsible for discussion of assigned published stories, and come to class with a written question on the story for discussion. You are expected to meet with your instructor in office hours to discuss work that hasn’t been workshopped.

All stories submitted to the workshop must be cleanly typed, double-spaced and stapled. NO LATE WORK WILL BE ACCEPTED. At the end of the semester you will be asked to turn in a portfolio consisting of all the work you have done for the class, including story responses, exercises and the required two stories, along with a complete revision of one of those stories. DO NOT THROW ANY WORK AWAY THAT YOU DO FOR THIS CLASS OR YOUR GRADE MAY BE AFFECTED.
Attendance: English 303 is a writing workshop, and in order to “workshop” you must be present. Attendance is mandatory and will figure into your final grade. If you have other commitments during class time that may result in absences, this may not be the semester to take this class. MORE THAN TWO ABSENCES WILL RESULT IN A LOWERING OF YOUR GRADE. MORE THAN THREE LATENESSES WILL BE COUNTED AS AN ABSENCE.
Grading: Original Work 40%

Critiques 30%

Participation/Exercises/Questions 30%

Original work will be assessed holistically—after both stories and one revision have been turned in—on my assessment of your grasp of basic fictional elements, style, structure, narrative technique, etc. Critiques will be graded with a check, check plus or check minus grade. Story questions will be given credit/no credit

Workshopping: By the second or third week of class you will begin to submit your stories to the workshop. Two stories a session will be discussed. No more than fifteen pages may be turned in to any one workshop. Please do not ask for an exception to be made – it won’t. You must have your stories finished and copied and distributed to the class at least a week before your story is discussed. You will be “up” in workshop at least twice during the semester. You may have the opportunity to go up three times.

Week One August 26

Course introduction, in-class discussion and exercise
Week Two September 2

Introduction – readings due:

Introduction, pp. 1-4 (Hills)

“Happy Endings” Atwood

“Babylon Revisited” Fitzgerald

Week Three September 9

Character and Action – readings due:

Pages 5-18 (Hills)

“The Lesson” Bambara
Week Four September 16

Epiphany – readings due:

Pages 19-24 (Hills)

“Araby” Joyce
Week Five September 23

The Inevitability of Retrospect – readings due:

Pages 24-36 (Hills)

“Everything That Rises Must Converge” O’Connor
Week Six September 30

Techniques of Suspense – readings due:

Pages 37-43 (Hills)

“A Rose for Emily” Faulkner

Week Seven October 7

Character – readings due:

Pages 43-58 (Hills)

“Miles City, Montana” Munro

Week Eight October 14

Character and Motivation – readings due:

Pages 58-79 (Hills)

“Say Yes” Wolff

“The Conversion of the Jews” Roth

Week Nine October 21

Plot /Structure/Theme – readings due:

Pages 80-97 (Hills)

“The Story of an Hour” Chopin

“Distant View of a Minaret” Rifaat

Week Ten October 28

Plot/Revision – readings due:

Pages 98-119 (Hills)

“The Bath” and “A Small Good Thing” Carver (HANDOUT)
Week Eleven November 4

Point of View – readings due:

Pages 120-157 (Hills)

“Hills Like White Elephants” Hemingway
Week Twelve November 11

More Point of View – readings due:

“The Red Convertible” Erdrich

Week Thirteen November 18

Setting/Style/Theme – readings due:

Pages 158-171 (Hills)

“Some are Born to Sweet Delight” Gordimer
Week Fourteen November 25

Voice – readings due:

“How to Date a Browngirl, Blackgirl, Whitegirl, or Halfie” Diaz

“Boys” Moody

“Incarnations of Burned Children” Wallace

Week Fifteen December 2

Deconstructing it all – readings due:

“Lost in the Funhouse” Barth (extra credit)

“How to Become a Writer” Moore (extra credit)


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